Look Me Up When You're Down Under 
(Allen Barnes and Jody Stecher) 

My old friend Allen Barnes received a message from a former (retro-country)  bandmate who had moved to the antipodes. “Look me up when you’re down under”, it said. Allen started making a song around that one line. By the time I got involved it already had verses, chorus, structure, and was fueled by the  friction of opposites. Up/down, under/over, left/right, front/back, here/there, are all contrasted in the verses, to say nothing of the northern and southern hemispheres. 

The basic premise :  A failed romance in Alaska causes a disappointed lover to move to Australia where unusual animals and opposites do not abate the longing for reconciliation. 

The musicians on this recording project seemed to particularly enjoy recording “Look Me Up When You’re Down Under”.  Perhaps a bit of stylistic analysis will shed light on why it was so much fun. The song structure is verse-bridge-chorus.  And this happens 3 times.  My arrangement treats each segment in a different rhythmic style. Each verse is in the style of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. The middle segment, the bridge, is retro New Orleans through a Zydeco filter,  and the chorus is straight ahead bluegrass oompah. 

The style of the instrumental interlude by banjo and mandolin has its roots in the four and a half years that I was a member of the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band. Most shows or festival sets we did included an extended treatment of one or more of Peter’s celebrated anthems or one of his newer songs.  At a certain point, known only to Peter, he and Paul Knight would stop playing guitar and bass, and would move to the back of the stage as Keith Little and I moved to center stage from our usual places at the sides.  There, playing into one microphone, we’d create something loosely based on the structure of the song that had been sung, always using elements we had never tried before. This was one of the joys of playing in that band, this exploring of musical frontiers, with its trusting risk taking, and the audience very much engaged and supportive.  Neither Keith nor I knew what we were going to play but somehow we each knew what the other was going to play, and that certainty informed what each of us would play next, all of which was played simultaneously with what the other played.  One of the sounds or styles we discovered involved rapid tones of short sustain that reminds me of charged electrons. That’s how we play the break on “Look Me Up When You’re Down Under”. 

Look Me Up When You’re Down Under 

© Allen Barnes & Jody Stecher, Vegetiboy Music (BMI) 

The day we met was six months long 
I never thought you’d do me wrong 
The Northern Lights shone bright the day 
You told me that you’d go away 

And when our sun had finally set 
I went as far as I could get 
I headed south to lands below 
Far from the Arctic ice and snow 

Look me up when you’re down under 
Look me up if you get down 
Look me up when you’re down under 
You turned my whole world upside 

        down here, 

Now then, here there’s kangaroo 
There’s dingoes, darlin’, emu too 
There’s wallabies and cockatoo 
But the one thing not down here is you 

I think of you, dear, every night 
While Southern stars are shining bright 
I know you’re half a world away 
Where my dark nights are always day 

Look me up when you’re down under 
Look me up if you get down 
You know you tore my heart asunder 
You turned my whole world upside down 

If you’re not over me up there 
Please understand that I still care 
If you left right now and showed up here 
I’d be right side up down under dear 

Cause I keep hoping you’ll come back 
Like a boomerang thrown down the track 
I’ll be upfront though I am blue 
The outback’s got nothing on you 

Look me up when you’re down under 
Look me up when you are down 
You stole my heart and kept the plunder 
And turned my whole world upside down 

Look me up when you’re down under 
You turned my whole world upside down 

Jody Stecher: vocal and mandolin 
Keith Little: vocal and banjo 
Chad Manning: fiddle 
Eric Thompson: guitar 
Paul Knight: bass